On May 21, Osage Nation Principal Chief John D. Red Eagle and representatives from the U. S. Geological Survey signed an agreement for a four-year study to determine the water resources within Osage County.
On April 23, the Osage Nation Congress unanimously passed ONCA 13-14, sponsored by Congressman Geoffrey Standing Bear, in which $1,862,600 was appropriated to the Osage Nation Environmental and Natural Resources Department for the water study. ENR will use $600,000 to directly fund a separate contract for geophysical surveys.
The USGS has agreed to contribute $194,000 to the study. Over four years $2,191,900 will be needed to complete the USGS portion of the study, with the remaining $929,300 in needed funds to be appropriated by the Osage Nation Congress in subsequent fiscal years.
The USGS will work with the Osage Nation’s Environment and Natural Resources Department, directed by Jann Jones.
“This study will provide the data needed for the nation to create a water use plan in the Osage for decades to come,” said Chief Red Eagle’s Senior Staff Advisor and the Assistant Chair to the Water Task Force, Debra Atterberry.
“Assessment of water types, fresh and saline, will provide the Osage Nation with a comprehensive description of the spatial distribution and volume of these two resources. This information will be used to quantify connections between supply and demand components of all types of water use, and plan for the potential availability of water resources under current and alternative climatic and cultural water use scenarios,” David N. Mott, Director of the USGS Oklahoma Water Science Center explained.
USGS scientists plan to conduct the first comprehensive, high-resolution aerial geophysical survey to study the rock layers and water quality in the Osage, Mott said.
According to Mott, the result will be “an integrated surface-water/groundwater model, which is three dimensional and will be created using a numerical simulation process to analyze changes in flow, storage and recharge in the different hydrologic regions of the Osage with different climate and water-use scenarios. [This] model will be used to estimate available volumes of fresh and saline water resources.”
As part of the information gathering process, a helicopter equipped with cable lines holding electromagnetic and magnetic instruments will fly over Osage County.
“This is an important study which will help establish water conservation and responsible water planning in the Osage,” said Osage Principal Chief John D. Red Eagle.
The aerial survey of the county will be flown in a grid pattern by both aircraft at different times, Mott said. “East-west lines will be flown one-quarter mile apart at elevations from 100-500 feet above the ground, and two and one-half miles apart in a north-south direction. All survey flights will occur during daylight hours and be approved by the FAA in advance.”
“Approximately 30 wells will be monitored regularly during the four-year study,” said Chris Harich, a USGS Oklahoma Water Science Center Hydrologist.
“About one-third of those could be existing wells, with the other two-thirds of the wells to be drilled for the study,” Harich said. “The hope is that residents will volunteer to have existing wells sampled or new wells installed on their properties for the study,” he added.
During July and August, the USGS will be holding several meetings in communities throughout Osage County to inform residents and to seek volunteers to participate in well monitoring on their properties. Mott encouraged residents to watch local newspapers for announcements of these meetings.